I’ve just seen an old black and white photo from World War 2.

It’s a British soldier frisking a German soldier.

But it’s a bit unusual.

What I found thought provoking was the story behind it.

It happened at Normandy in 1944.

The Canadians had landed on one of the D Day beaches and the fighting had been pretty bloody.

There were several pillboxes firing onto the beach and mowing down the troops as they came ashore.

The only way to take out the pillboxes was to get up onto the cliffs above them.

It took a lot of fighting and killing.

But eventually they made it up onto the cliffs overlooking the pillboxes.

Once they were there it became obvious the Germans had a choice: surrender or die.

Sure enough they raised the white flag.

But it was still dangerous.

The British didn’t know if the Germans were bluffing.

Suppose they sent the whole squad down there and the Germans changed their minds and shot them all?

So they asked for volunteers.

Six of the toughest men said they’d go down and check it out.

If the Germans were bluffing, there’d still be enough of the squad left to kill them all.

So the six men went down.

One of them was a little corporal called Bob Roberts.

He was only 5 feet 3 inches tall but he was tough.

When he got down there one of the German officers pulled out a pistol and Bob Roberts shot him.

Then he began disarming the remaining Germans, frisking them.

And here’s the part that I found a real eye-opener.

Corporal Roberts suddenly noticed everyone was laughing at him.

Not just the British troops but the Germans too.

And he looked up, and the man he was frisking was absolutely massive: seven foot six inches tall.

The German troops had spotted how short Bob Roberts was and pushed forward the tallest man in the German army.

And the British troops thought it was so funny, they were laughing and taking photographs.

A little bloke searching an enormous bloke.

It looked like a scene out of a Laurel and Hardy film.

Suddenly the two sets of troops weren’t enemy soldiers trying to kill each other, they were all just blokes having a laugh.

Isn’t it amazing how laughter can do that?

That’s one of Bill Bernbach’s “simple, timeless human truths”.

Laughter, real laughter, crosses boundaries.

Everyone loves a laugh.

And that laughter marked the end of the killing and dying that day.

The Germans handed their guns over.

Everyone shared their cigarettes.

They weren’t exactly friends, but now it was just business.

No hatred, just doing what had to be done with the minimum fuss.

The laughter let all the tension out of the situation.

On both sides.

And that’s what amazed me: that they could laugh together.

Which is why so much of what we do, communication, is based in humour.

Humour is a great conduit between people.

Humour has a way of overcoming our defences, our resistance.

Humour makes us relax.


Humour is human.